Overcoming Self-centered Fear

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By the time you read this everything will be different. All the moments I am about to describe will have passed, but right now, right now there is a friend getting ready to put on her wedding dress, another prays for her child to live, yet another boards a plane for a funeral. In this moment I am standing at a traffic light on my way to work as one driver rages and honks at the other from their car.  While all this is happening my mind floods with both thoughts and emotions in reaction to each of these events. All the emotions come at once and I bring to mind my own circumstances, the things in my own life I am grappling with. Through my headphones Chris Tomlin is singing, “How Great Is Our God”.

On any give day, at any given moment this can be any of us, in one of these situations, faced with the ultimate reality of how little control we have, and how omnipotent God is.  On any given day my own struggles can pale in comparison to that of those I love most around me or I can be so self focused on my own circumstances that I don’t even see others struggle. I can feel helpless in these moments. I can question God. I can be disappointed in Him and tempted not to trust Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him,and he will make your paths straight.”

When I encounter overwhelming or unexpected situations, my initial response can be fear. I’m learning to see that this fear is self-centered. The fear I often face is not a healthy fear of a specific threat in which I can move to action to protect what is important. Rather, it is an anxious fear, undefined, not specific, in which I am unable to act in response because it isn’t clear what to respond to. This anxiety often reveals what I am putting my security in and it reveals my pride. It exposes the pride of “I would do it differently, better”, or “This is not the way things should go, it’s not how life should go.” Humble people don’t feel superior to anyone, especially God.  He is in control in all these circumstances and knows what I do not. He is still a good and benevolent God. When I look at others circumstances and allow fear to drive me inward I become self-centered, I can make others situations about me. Pride and fear make me concentrate on myself and expose my arrogance.  Humility turns thoughts to God and others.

Is 30:15 “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.”

According to CS Lewis, “Humility doesn’t think less of self, it thinks of self less.” Humility isn’t needy because it recognizes its ultimate assurance is in God.  In humility I can trust God and lean into Him for protection for myself and others. Humility admits my need for help from God and trust that He is working. I am learning to see and accept the reality of my rebellion against God. I am learning to be open and accept the miracle of grace and embrace the unknown, entrusting it to Him along with all the joy and pain that comes with it.  

Ps3:3 “But you, O Lord , are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.”

I love the above passage because the shield that is described is the kind of shield that is large enough to bend around the person holding it. It’s not the small kind of shield you swing around to deflect attacks, it’s the large, strong kind you hold in front of you while you follow your commander into battle. God is worthy of following. He gave up everything for me. His love is trustworthy.

Love is the opposite of fear. Perfect love drives out fear. My longing for safety most often goes back to my longing for love and acceptance. It’s about the assurance of my worth, it’s about keeping the things and people close to me safe, or turning them into obstacles if they stand in the way of feeling assurance because I can let them define me. A friend getting married is not leaving me. Me not being able to comfort a hurting friend the way I want to is not about me but about entrusting her comfort to God. I am learning to not possess the things and people in my life in order to get assurance from them. Instead I lean into the truth of the cross. Christ died willingly for me. He was strong enough to be weak so I can be strong enough to be weak. This infinitely affirms me. I don’t need to be in control. I do not need to protect others in order to feel safe or affirmed. I don’t know, nor am I better than anyone. I don’t always need to be there, say something, or have the answer. It’s not about me. So the first step is realizing and recognizing the extent of my pride.

The second step, is my response. Instead of “doing something” I’m learning to accept God’s grace and as Isaiah 30:15 states above, to look to my salvation, to look back to Jesus who died for me, to recall this love and grace and trust this God while I wait and He works. He is the God who gave me the glory that only Jesus deserves. He is revealing and transforming.

John 17:22 “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.”

Instead of numbing out, it’s feeling all the joy and pain of every friend’s present circumstances and choosing to worship God in full assurance and trust. It’s being honest and saying, I will still mess up. I will still fall in my pride, and hurt innocent bystanders on my way down because pride is so destructive. But God’s grace is sufficient and He will lift me and those around me back up. Where I fall short, He will provide. Where I fall short I will own my mistakes, ask for forgiveness and atone. I will lean into the love of God so I can think of myself less and love others more. I will pray for my friends and all their different situations instead of getting caught up in fearful anxiety.

I choose to get out of my head, connect with my heart and bring what is in it before God. I choose to worship Him and seek out things to be grateful for in each circumstance and let them go, into His hands. He loves me and those I love so much more than I could ever.  

The traffic light changes and I begin to cross the street on my way to work, the fear loosens its grip in my heart and fades as the lyrics to, “How Great Is Our God” come into focus. A calm sets in bringing a smile to my face. It will be ok. I see my pride, I am not in control, I accept my weaknesses and I think of myself less enabling me to love others better. 

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4 thoughts on “Overcoming Self-centered Fear

  1. Kasia, this post really resonated with me. I love your reflective writing style. Fear has been a driving force for most my life (until a couple of years ago). Jesus has been setting me free by showing me that my fear was sin that I could confess and relinquish to Him. What a blessed truth!

  2. Wow wow wow Kasia! This was SO profoundly insightful and inspiring to read. Your words and message challenge me to look closely at my own responses and my own pride- and ohmygoodness this hits me HARD in the heart. So much of our thoughts and emotions and coping approaches to various circumstances are truly self centered, self protective, and self driven.

    Thank you for this conviction. I needed it.

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